After three days of testimony, all the state legislature had to do was approve a recommendation dealing with just four words.
And they failed miserably.
In another example of what can only be classified as partisan politics at work, a house committee at the state capitol rejected a measure that would've provided better protections for state residents when it comes to discrimination. It's an argument I thought we had settled 51 years ago when the Civil Rights Act was signed into law.
But when I read the decision, I felt like I had just stepped back in time 30 or 40 years when this form of discrimination was not only rampant but readily accepted. How many of us remember the culture of the time when people were singled out and targeted based solely on their sexual orientation?
From my perspective, it seemed that it was ingrained in the American culture until society finally realized that this was totally unacceptable. It's taken years for those old ways of thinking to go away, and I suspect it'll take another generation before this type of discrimination finally ends.
However, I can't help but sit in my chair at my desk and shake my head over why the lawmakers we voted back into office (once again) can't seem to understand that discrimination -- regardless of a person's race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin or disability -- is inherently wrong.
Here's something to consider. Scientific evidence seems to indicate that people don't "learn" to be heterosexual or even homosexual after they're born. Studies suggest that it's something woven into our DNA, meaning that people are born this way.
Having said that, why is a person's sexual orientation or gender identity any different from whether they were born white, black, Asian or Hispanic? How much control do they have over whether we're born a man or a woman?
If anyone has an answer to that question, I'd love to hear it.
We have so many issues affecting our state, from improving the quality of education in our public schools to improving the economy so we can encourage people to come to Idaho where they can land good-paying jobs and settle down here.
Instead, we saw another episode of "Political Playhouse Theater" where it was more important to get that sound bite on the 6 o'clock news than it was to do the right thing and approve those four words. While our elected officials try to convince us that they "talk the talk," I don't see a whole lot of instances where they "walk the walk."
What's really frustrating is that I've seen some of state representatives hold up a copy of the U.S. Constitution saying they stand behind every word it says. Having heard that same story time and time again, I really wonder if they actually bothered to read that document and all the case law that goes with it.
Maybe what they should've done is read is the first few lines of the Declaration of Independence. Perhaps this says it best.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
So how can our state representatives stand there and reject a piece of legislation that would've guaranteed a person's God-given right to pursue their lives to the fullest? Instead, I'm seeing another case as business as usual.
Opponents of the bill went on the record saying that those four words would infringe on the religious freedoms other others.
What utter rot!
Have any of our elected officials been following the news lately? Just a few weeks ago, Pope Francis took a stand by saying, "who am I to judge" in reference to gay people in the Catholic community.
Early last week, the Mormon church announced it would launch a campaign to support new laws aimed at protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. While it's still unclear how this measure would play out, it seems clear that church doctrine is changing toward greater acceptance of all people.
So if two of the largest religious organizations in the world can agree that all people should be treated the same, why can't our state legislature?
I strongly believe this battle is far from over. I'd wager good money this issue winds up in the courts with our state leaders having to spend a lot of time, energy and money to defend their decision. And instead of focusing on more pressing matters affecting state residents, we'll have another front-row seat in another episode of political theater.
All they had to do was approve four words. And yet they couldn't do it.
-- Brian S. Orban